'Preserving the land': Warehouse activist slapped with cease-and-desist from Inch & Co.

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

An activist at the center of a Facebook group protesting potential warehouse construction in York County was served with a cease-and-desist letter from prominent area builder Inch & Co. alleging defamation.

Lettice Brown said she was "very surprised" to have received the letter on Saturday that alleged she had made defamatory comments in a private Facebook group, Residents Against Warehouse on PA Avenue. Brown created the Facebook group in January in response to potential industrial development near a historic cemetery.

"We are focused on preserving the land, nothing more," Brown said in a statement on Wednesday. "We don't want this land developed! We are standing up because we are invested and passionate about this land."

Lettice Brown is the founder of the Facebook page Residents Against the Warehouse on PA Avenue and has organized two protests.

Since receiving the letter, Brown has been in contact with Inch & Co.'s lawyer to determine which of her Facebook comments crossed the line — with 10 comments provided for her to remove. Brown said she removed seven or eight of them.

Buzz surrounding warehouse construction in York County has mobilized community members, including the residents in Brown's Facebook group worried about development adjacent to Prospect Hill Cemetery in Manchester Township.

More:York City's elected controller signed off on public funding for her own nonprofit: Investigation

MORE:Tensions mount in spat over possible warehouse near Prospect Hill Cemetery

MORE:Residents mobilize against industrial development near historic cemetery

Prospect Hill Cemetery itself changed hands in December 2021, when it was purchased by Matthew Seyler from Jack Sommer. Before that, in November 2021, Sommer sold roughly 50 acres of land attached to the cemetery to Inch & Co. Construction. In a phone call with The York Dispatch, Sommer confirmed this, adding that he was not privy to plans by Inch after the sale.

The 52-acre parcel, now owned by Penn Avenue Partners LLC, was rezoned for industrial use in December 2021. Penn Avenue Partners LLC and Inch & Co. share the same mailing address, 2950 Lewisberry Road, according to public records available online.

For Brown, who lives in York City, the grassy lot is the largest green space nearby for the folks who live along Pennsylvania Avenue.

"You're going to have big trucks rumbling down the street. You're going to have the idling of those diesel trucks 24/7," Brown said, voicing her concerns of potential development. "(Resident's) property values are going to go down, as well as the noise, the air pollution, light pollution and the stormwater runoff pollution."

Pat Kelly of Park Village was at the Thursday March 2 protest against the Pennsylvania Avenue warehouse. Her father is buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery, where he bought a plot in 1938, alongside other family members.

Mobilization from residents manifested in several protests — which garnered the attention from Inch & Co. CEO Jeff Inch.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism. 

Tempers reportedly flared on March 26 over signs the protesters had staked into the ground, and the police were called, but — aside from another volley of impassioned social media posts — nothing came of the confrontation.

Inch told The York Dispatch he feels frustrated because he's tried to extend an olive branch to the protesters several times, offering to meet them and talk over their concerns.

Inch & Co. did not respond to inquiries Wednesday seeking comment regarding the cease-and-desist letter.

Manchester Township Manager Tim James confirmed that no building plans have been formally submitted to the township as of Wednesday.

"When I started this I had no idea who (Inch & Co) were, so there was no reason to dislike them. But as time goes on, folks will develop opinions and perceptions based on actions," Brown said in a written statement. "If it were another developer, we would still be doing the same thing, so it's a shame they think it's personal."

Reporter Noel Miller contributed to this report.